Why the recent trend to put slithers of blue diamond inside wedding rings?

It’s a borrowing of the “something blue” part of “something old, something new, something borrowed,…”, turned with typical Japanese ingenuity towards commercial ends.

I refused it, even though it was a free special offer, because couldn’t see any point at all and the fact that it wasn’t just on the bride and wasn’t from the beginning of the ceremony seemed not just different, but wrong. Sometimes I worry I’m turning into a cultural relativist, other times I see how unlikely that is…

Why do the Japanese choose such dull coloured cars?

“This phenomenon is a direct result of pigment shortages due to import restrictions imposed by the government more than 20 years ago.”

From this post in the An Englishman in Osaka blog. Read the rest of this entry »

Why do rikishi (sumo wrestlers) have their hair cut off when they retire?

At the end of the feudal period they were the only ones allowed to keep the samurai topknot haircut, so I guess that privilege ran out when they retired


Why is The Girl from Ipanema so popular in Japan?

 I often go to Excelsior Cafes because their Assam tea is the closest thing to English “builders’ tea”, but if I’ve forgotten my walkman one version or another of that song (my most hated ever) will drive me out of there.
I was guessing it must be included in some Japanese film,TV ad and/or TV programme,but my missus tells me it all started with a version by Ono Risa, a Nikkei (ethnic Japanese) singer, in the 80s

Why is Bulgarian yoghurt so famous in Japan?

One of my students was guessing that Meiji Foods or another Japanese manufacturer picked the name for one of their yoghurts from a random encyclopedia entry and everyone else just copied it. I’m sure real Bulgarian yoghurt is great, it being in the right part of the world, but in the UK the yoghurt from neighbouring Greece and Turkey are much more famous.
This is a question I’ve long wondered about, but has come up again after the inevitable “now yoghurt isn’t the most famous thing from Bulgaria” comment in today’s Japan Times after the victory of Kotooshu in the sumo

Why are there comparatively few skyscrapers in Tokyo, despite the high land prices?

Earthquakes and soft ground, small plots of land with individual owners, tax laws that make people reluctant to sell, big Japanese companies tending to have their own buildings, and strict laws about blocking light

Why do my housewife students complain about their husbands so much?

This is a question that I have heard a fair few times. Many eikaiwa teachers come to the conclusion that Japan has a world record breaking number of miserable marriages. Whilst that is conceivable (some nation has to be top!), there are plenty of cultural factors to take into account before coming to that conclusion. One is a tradition of disparaging members of your family in order to appear humble, including the not totally disappeared habit of saying “my smelly wife” as a humble form of okusan. Another is a tradition of taking the mickey out of the man in the house and of the salaryman more generally, as explained in detail by Ian Buruma. As gruff macho dads tend to get this ribbing most, I’m guessing it is a way of evening up the power relationships in the home. The third factor is a comparative lack of safe topics of conversation in Japanese making each one appear like a national obsession, most notably with the topic of food but also with this one. The final influence that I can think of is that many Japanese people seem to think of slagging people off as as Western or British sense of humour, or alternatively find it to be a kind of humour they can easily express in English, and so tend to say those kind of things much more in English than in Japanese.

Why is the burger loving clown “Donald MacDonald” in Japan?

The MacDonalds management were worried that the Japanese wouldn’t be able to pronounce “Ronald”

Why are most Japanese guys not particularly interested in building up their muscles?

There isn’t a particularly positive image of built up guys. Rather than be impressed, people are likely to be intimidated. This is somewhat true with the opposite sex, but even more so in business- very unacceptable in Japan where the privelidge of intimidating people is strictly based on seniority!

 There may also be a social class thing going on. In a similar way to what is happening with suntans, the Japanese are at the transition point between burly meaning a manual worker (therefore poor) and burly meaning plenty of time and money for a gym and nutrition drinks (therefore rich)

Why is a bit of cleavage still so daring in Japan?

 It’s at least partly the danger of low cut becoming very revealing when you bow

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